If You Really Want To Know How To Get An Agent – PART ONE

Current number of messages on my voice mail = 36.

This agent is thinking evil thoughts about YOU.

If you are ready to get an agent (and more on THAT later). Please, do NOT call them on the phone. I’m sure you’re perfectly lovely, but I promise that whoever told you that if you “just get them on the phone you’ll be able to convince them that you’re book will be huge” was doing you a massive disservice. We really don’t want to spend our time answering questions about your submission. If you do have a question about the submission process that you can’t find the answer to online DO YOUR BEST TO FIGURE IT OUT. The thing is, a submission to an agent is kind of like a quiz. If you do a reasonably good job of it, it’s only going to help your overall grade. More importantly, if you’re writing is amazing, we’re not going to say “oh wow, this writing is the best thing I’ve read since INSERT TITLE OF MAJOR BESTSELLING AUTHOR HERE” but too bad he used Helvetica instead of my preferred Times New Roman font. Really, we’re all reasonable. That being said, just don’t do anything crazy such as:

  • Use so much tape, packing material (really, are packing peanuts necessary? It’s paper people!) that we can’t open your manuscript.
  • Send flowers or some such other gift. It’s totally creepy.
  • Use a freakishly small font (we’re all half blind).
  • Single-space your manuscript (see previous comment regarding eyesite).
  • Punch holes in it and stick it in a giant binder. Unwieldy!
  • Use double sided paper.

If you’re debating sample chapters vs. no sample chapters, just take a guess – BUT DON’T CALL. Getting more sample chapters than we’d like is a million times less annoying than getting the call asking if we want them. Trust me on this one. And more importantly, trust yourself! If you’ve figured out how to write an entire book proposal or manuscript, chances are you’re a pretty smart cookie and you can navigate this part of the game just fine. It takes patience my friend. Stick those pages in the mail, sit back, read a book or start thinking long and hard about what you’re going to write next.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “If You Really Want To Know How To Get An Agent – PART ONE

  1. And the messages will keep coming!

  2. I love your new blog – and not just because I’m a desperate, sorry, *aspiring* writer.

    Great advice for dealing with agents, and I will definitely be consulting your blog further whenever I come to actually biting the bullet and trying to submit my manuscript… But that could be another two, five, eleven years from now… I hope you’re still around then.

    • I seriously have a feeling it won’t take that long for you (I read your blog, you’re funny!). Thank you so much for leaving a comment. You made my morning, and this is PRE-coffee. I will try to share whatever I’ve learned in a manner that won’t bore everyone to madness. . . .

  3. Thanks for the comment on my blog. And yes – I can see how that show will be making women look crazy. This is where I should say I would fit in, but the truth is, in a group situation, I usually end up being pretty quiet and contained. Even gasp! professional. Damn it.

    Now, I have to tell you that I’m taking this post to heart. While there are moments when I despair about having too much info about the query process, etc. I am grateful that most agents I’ve visit online have specific requirements and are clear about them. Why would a person not follow them?

    Signed,

    Late to submit an application. Oh.

    • As far as queries go, I think it’s a little like sending your baby off to school. It’s easy to get nervous and over think everything! But the bottom line is common sense. If you’re reasonable with your submission, you’re going to do great. I get calls – “it’s says 50 pages or so in the literary marketplace, but my first few chapters are 62 pages. Is that okay?” I’m like seriously? No normal person is going to throw away those extra pages if they’re interested. It’s all about common sense and being professional. Remember what I said. . this process is a secret quiz. And that person who called with that question just failed!

  4. Wait, are people still picking up the phone to CALL someone? This surprises me. In these times of everyone-has-a-blog-including-Meemaw, plus the proliferation of Twitter and Tumbler and iPhone and iPad devotees, you’d think that people would *rather* cold-e-mail someone instead of phoning. No?

    That said, thanks for this. I’m looking forward to parts 2, 3 and more!

    • THANK YOU MS. MARY MACK! Yes, I know. Who wants to pick up the phone! I KNOW I’m in trouble when I get this “Hello, I’m calling long distance from INSERT NAME OF MIDWESTERN CITY.” I’m like, are you calling from 1952? By the way, I’m from Milwaukee, so I’m entitled to the midwestern comment!

  5. Tom

    No offense to you, but I view today’s literary agents as hacks, not unlike people who have been in politics becoming lobbyists.

    I don’t see agents making use of modern technology, like the internet. Rather than spend time dealing with writer inquiries, it would make more sense to have an online presence and accept writer submissions. The bugaboo of potential litigation can be dealt with. Not needing to deal with aspiring clients would give agents more time to look at submitted materials.

    And, the entire process of winnowing out movie and TV scripts could be made obsolete by becoming a major online repository for such things. People who have an interest in potential projects could be given access to read material. Oh, you might make them pay for the privilege (they deserve their comeuppance). Today, the entertainment industry is so inbred we are getting results similar to those seen when purebred dogs are bred.

  6. A submission to an agent may be like a quiz, but we can’t forget that some of us don’t care about our grades. Some want to get that quiz over with as soon as possible. Some don’t want to make the effort to study. Some think they know it all.

    If there’s one thing that 20 years of teaching has taught me, it’s that people basically lack common sense. Like when you chastise a student for writing an anonymous note to a well-endowed classmate, asking if she buys her bras from Omar the Tentmaker, and instead of denying the deed, he states, “You can’t PROVE I did it!” Which to me, kind of solidifies my belief that he did it. That, and the handwriting samples on the note and the five assignments he has turned in all year. It also makes me curious as to how a 10th-grader in Podunk, MO, has heard of Omar the Tentmaker, but is clueless on the subject of forensic evidence.

    • I suspect that in this difficult economic climate the agent’s job is exponentially more difficult. I’m happy not having to deal with book publishers who may be struggling financially.

      Authors, agents, and publishers each have their own set of problems to deal with. It is hard work for everybody concerned. A little luck is always helpful.

  7. But! What if I send flowers, and on each petal is a chapter of my super-awesome memoir, single-spaced and styled in a font barely visible to the human eye?

    Admit it. You want to be my agent. That’s why you created this blog. I’m on to your tricks.

    • Okay. You’re totally right. The mom blogger thing was just a trick actually, I don’t even have kids! Ask Tonya. I really just push around a doll in a stroller and she hangs out with me out of pity. I am loving this idea. It has a very gothic feel to it. . it’s like a nod to Twilight with a twist of VC Andrews PETALS ON THE WIND. Amazing. That’s what I like about you. YOU ARE ALWAYS THINKING.

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